By John Torsiello
There is great competition in golf, and I’m not just talking about the PGA Tour. Golf courses and ranges across the country are facing increased challenges that go beyond the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the recent shutdowns, facilities were facing stiff competition from within the golf industry and from external foes as well. Striving to be the best is a mantra that is often reflected in the products and services a facility offers. Here are six of the best golf ranges and practice facilities in the country, the 2019 Golf Range Association of America Range Renovation Award Winners. They were highly-respected prior to the renovations they implemented; now they’re even better – they’re GRAA Award Winners.
Big Cedar Lodge – Ridgedale, Missouri
Big Cedar Lodge added a nine-hole putting course designed by Missouri-native and World Golf Hall-of-Famer, Tom Watson. Adding to the existing beauty of the Mountain Top Course, the Tom Watson Putting Course covers more than one full acre, and challenges golfers with large slopes and undulations. The putting course offers a mini-golf atmosphere and is a hit with kids and families.
A three-green short game area, featuring Zoysia and bentgrass, as well as six sand bunkers was designed with the help of the design team at Coore & Crenshaw. This area enables golfers to improve their wedge play and those vital shots from within 100 yards.
“We needed a new, larger range and practice area because of our growth,” said Matt McQueary, Golf Sales and Marketing Manager. Big Cedar has added three courses (two 18-hole and a 13-hole par 3-course) since 2017. “We have more golf travelers than ever visiting, so we needed more space for warm-up, lessons, and practice. Guests have really enjoyed the new three-green practice area.”
Bobby Jones Golf Course – Atlanta, Georgia
Opened in 1932, the Bobby Jones Golf Course was recently redesigned to transform an antiquated property into two distinct reversible nine-hole layouts, a short game practice area, and a junior golf course and academy. The Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation, a group of private citizens, raised over 20 million dollars for the renovation with the help of local business sponsors and the assistance and design talents of Bob Cupp. There are plans for an additional short game area to be built after a new clubhouse is finished in 2020. The creation of the Grand Slam Golf Academy has engaged the community and is helping grow the game. With forty hitting bays on each of its two-sided range, this facility has stepped up and now stands out among its competitors.
General Manager Brian Conley said feedback has been “overwhelming”. He added, “There is indeed nothing like it in the Atlanta area or the Southeast. It is an immense melting pot of every golfing skill level, background, gender and profession. From members of the most prestigious private clubs in the country to beginners visiting from a local YMCA, the crowd on our range is as diverse as you will find in golf. Professional golfers who’ve visited or have learned of the project respect the facility and what we are doing in an effort to grow the game.”
Hillcrest Country Club – Los Angeles, California
A new range at Hillcrest Country Club allows members to practice without seeing a net or a ball leaving the range area. The spacious practice area is 330 yards long and has tee space that spans almost eighty yards wide. There are also five target greens accompanied by bunkers. The “Range House” has two fitting studios – one has a see-through bay where parents can watch their kids get lessons. With the popularity of the “Rock N’ Roll” range, lessons have increased by 30 percent from 2018.
“When we undertook a renovation of the course, we looked at our practice infrastructure and saw a chance to really improve our offerings and amenities. We went from a 220-yard range surrounded by nets to a 330-yard range that has no nets, a 77-yard wide teeing space, a five-hole short course, a short game practice area and green, a practice fairway bunker, a TrackMan range, speakers for music, and a state-of-the-art comfort station/teaching studio,” Head Professional Chris Miller highlights. Architect Kyle Phillips, along with Landscapes Unlimited, were involved in the project.
“Wow!” is the word Miller hears when people step onto the new practice area. “We have received tremendous feedback not only from local PGA Professionals, but also PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and well-known professionals.”
McGolf – Dedham, Massachusetts
McGolf installed 200 feet of Toptracer hitting bays during its recent renovation project. The club had to install fiber optics, special piping underground, and cameras above the hitting bays, as well as TV monitors to offer virtual golf in an instruction area, and 62 Power Tee mats. These additions gave McGolf more Power Tee mats than any other range in the United States or Europe.
“We have really done a lot in the last several years to combat the Topgolf phenomenon,” said Eric McInerney, Owner and PGA Head Professional. “We wanted to stay current with technology. The customer response has been tremendous, with more kids and women hitting balls.”
Mistwood Golf Dome – Bolingbrook, Illinois
The 30 hitting stations at Mistwood were upgraded with Toptracer, making it the first golf dome in the U.S. to be fully equipped with the technology, allowing up to four players to track their shots and apply simulator golf functions.
“We took a look at the Toptracer technology and knew it was exactly what we needed, said Andy Mickelson, Director of Golf. “Toptracer was affordable with very little upfront cost. The intention was to change the look and feel of our dome.”
The renovations have since doubled golf and food and beverage revenues. “Feedback has been unbelievable, with wait times fairly regular. Everyone loves the ability to utilize technology. Many pros in the Chicago area are simply blown away with how much fun the system is and are getting a lot of feedback from their own members that have been to our dome.”
Muirfield Village Golf Club – Dublin, Ohio
The Jack Nicklaus-founded Muirfield Village’s has a new practice building with a hitting bay that enables two people to comfortably share the space. Technology such as JC Video, V1 Golf, BodiTrak Golf, and Trackman are available to aid in the game-improvement experience, and each is connected to two 60-inch televisions displaying applicable data. Fitting options are also displayed for each club manufacturer that the club offers. Just a few paces to the side is the facility’s TrackMan virtual simulator.
“We also renovated bunkers, re-grassed greens, lengthened and added teeing space and drainage,” said Larry Dornisch, PGA Head Professional. The renovations became necessary due to the growing popularity and usage of the facility. “We needed to expand. All the work [was done] in-house and it went really well. Our members and users love it, and it has created more demand. We are considered one of the best facilities on Tour.”
For more information on any of these featured facilities, log on to the GRAA website at www.golfrange.org and click on Awards to learn about all of our recent award winners.